Ahmad Thomas, an investment banking executive and former economic advisor for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-San Francisco), will be the next CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. Thomas will start Aug. 10 and succeed Carl Guardino, who announced last month that he’s joining Bloom Energy in the fall as the executive vice president of government affairs and policy after 23 years as SVLG’s CEO.
“As the economic capital of California, Silicon Valley is looked to as a leader in economic growth, innovation, public policy and now, more than ever social issues,” Thomas said in a statement sent out by the business advocacy organization on Thursday. “Our community has always had serious issues to tackle, but with unprecedented economic challenges brought on by a once-in-a-lifetime global pandemic and reckoning with systemic racism, we need to lead with industry-wide initiatives that drive both the national dialogue and bring about real, measurable change. My vision for the Leadership Group is to face these issues head-on as an industry and community.”
Thomas, who is the organization’s first Black CEO, said his top priorities include addressing the lack of funding for transportation infrastructure, focusing on community college programs that connect two-year degree students with tech jobs and leveraging corporate investments to support $1 billion in affordable housing.
Thomas says he also wants to focus on helping SVLG’s more than 340 member companies hire more minorities and find ways to fund Black and Latinx-owned startups.
“Ahmad understands the primary concerns faced by workers and residents in the Bay Area including cost of housing, economic dislocation and the racial disparities that exist in the tech industry,” said Jed York, the incoming chair of SVLG’s board of directors. “As a leader who has made strides in bettering the community throughout his career, we are very excited by the impact he will make with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.”
For the last decade, Thomas has worked as an investment banker at Barclays, where he focused on structuring and financing public infrastructure, social impact and development projects. Prior to that, he served as a senior advisor on finance and economic policy for Feinstein in her Washington D.C. office.
As an advisor, he worked on policies related to tax and financial services, infrastructure, the federal budget and labor issues. During his time on Capitol Hill, he helped craft five bills that were signed into law, including legislation to reform mortgage lending practices and standardize FDIC procedures on foreclosure prevention.
“Ahmad showed a keen understanding of complex subjects, insight that has only grown over the years,” Feinstein said in a statement. “His work at Barclays, where he focused on financial matters and public policy across the Silicon Valley, will be of great value in his role as CEO of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.”
Thomas has a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University, a master’s from the London School of Economics and MBA from the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Menlo Park with his wife, Dr. Reena Thomas, and their two sons.